Palm leaf photo link wellcomecollection:[mfn]CC 4.0 iiif.wellcomecollection.org/image/L0031774/full/760%2C/0/default.jpg[/mfn]
Today I finished memorizing the Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha in Pāḷi (the 311 Theravāda nun’s rules). While I did not recite the whole lot in a single session, I did memorize in chunks until the total was completely memorized at one time or another. That means, I would recite a chunk of rules in front of a teacher by memory and then work on a separate adjacent succeeding chunk for memory. After finishing the new chunk, I would recite those new rules by memory in front of a teacher and then move forward to another adjacent succeeding chunk. While this is not the best or ideal method, the chunks were quite large at times. Furthermore, because present day bhikkhunis are considered extinct (and mentioned in the preamble (pubbakaraṇa) of the bhikkhu rule recitation ceremonies across the world) and not accepted by the world international saṅgha council (yet)[mfn]This would be the future 7th Buddhist Council Meeting that follows the previous 6th council meeting (Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana) that already happened in 1954[/mfn], the practice of memorizing has a different role today for me.
Memorizing the Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha is a requirement for monk’s independence that most monks do not finish even if they are some of the few who have recited the pātimokkha from memory from start to finish. I’m very happy today with this accomplishment. Will I try to memorize for recital from start to finish? Maybe, but not until much later in time.
What I learned:
I learned many new Pāḷi vocabulary words.
I had a lot of practice with the female grammatical Pāḷi variations.
Some rules surprised me and I researched them if needed.
I also took some time to read some of the background stories in the original Pāḷi as well.
I learned that the present day nuns who claim to be bhikkhunis who travel or sleep alone without fellow bhikkhunis present are breaking heavy rules that require 2 weeks of probation and require a special ceremony consisting of 20+ bhikkhunis and 20+ bhikkhus to be reinstated (abbhāna) as a full bhikkhunī. I was shocked to learn this, and the research of these rules slowed me down. I have written a few articles on my website which are easy to google as “Bhikkhunī probation monastery”
I learned that bhikkhunis are not allowed to live in the forest.
I learned that bhikkhunis are not allowed to live without monks in the same monastery, making a bhikkhunī-only forest monastery totally illegal (according to rules). The same is true for having separate dwelling spaces.
I learned that there are some rules that are not found in the Bhikkhu Pātimokkha that monks should follow as well.
The 8 or 10 Precept (Sayalay) Alternative:
The rules are definitely restrictive, and it is certain for progress in meditation to be impossible if any of the rules are broken intentionally. What more could be said about the consequences for breaking the heavy rules that require probation? That is why the well-learned Sayadaws have created a nun lineage called “Sayalay” so they can simply follow 8 or 10 rules. These Sayalay rules give a monastic life and plenty of time for study and practice without disrespecting the original bhikkhunī rules laid down by the Buddha. If you want, you can become a Sayalay at any of the many Pa-Auk International monasteries or Na-Uyana (Dhammika Ashram) and practice meditation to your heart’s content with very top meditation teachers. In short, it is not easy to be a Buddhist nun of any type (bhikkhunī or sayalay) and I would not want to be a woman. See photos below:[mfn]artist is here https://pixabay.com/users/truthseeker08-2411480/ [/mfn]
How to Support 8 and 10 Precept Nuns:
I encourage you to support and respect the Sayalays (or other 8 or 10 precept nuns) who respect the Buddha’s rules laid down long ago by taking a similar but different vehicle down the same road. The Sayalays do not get much support and they need your help. It is legal for 8 and 10 precept nuns to live alone, but not for bhikkhunis. It is legal for 8 and 10 precept nuns to travel alone, but not for bhikkhunis. If you see an 8 or 10 precept nun…take special attention to ask if they follow 8 or 10 rules. The ones who follow 8 rules are able to use money. The ones who follow 10 rules do not touch money. Lend a hand by saying (to the 8 or 10 precept nun), “If you ever need anything, please let me know. I might be able to help.” It is a non-commitment statement but it invites the nun to ask when they need help. If or when they do ask for help, then you can decide.
I am very happy about finishing this Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha task that was long overdue. It could be done better, but it is good enough for now. Next on my list to memorize is 32,000 syllables worth of suttas (teachings of The Buddha). While it sounds difficult, the texts were geared for memorization and there are many repetitions. We are also memorizing the entire Dhammapada at IIT during the next two years with a rate of one verse per day. Slowly but surely, the task will be fulfilled. While memorizing texts is not easy, nor is it my favorite thing to do as a monk, it is something that needs to be done. Generally speaking, I’m quite happy with my monk life and I feel so blessed for this bhikkhu life to the point that if I talk about my gratitude for this life long enough, my voice starts to quiver and tears start to roll. These tasks are a small debt to pay, and it is all part of the package. Furthermore, these learning exercises and achievements are mentioned by the ancient commentaries[mfn]One possible reason why some Western monks go against the commentaries[/mfn]. They are wise and I can see the benefits.
Picture by truth seeker [mfn]https://pixabay.com/photos/dawn-monks-morning-pindacara-2671235/[/mfn]
In Pāḷi’s script, a quest unfolds,
Through bhikkhunī pātimokkha, wisdom holds.
Memorized in parts, with a teacher’s gaze,
Each rule, a step, in the Dhamma’s maze.
New words unfolded, in grammar’s embrace,
Surprises in rules, researched with grace.
Understanding grew, in stories’ roots deep,
Revealing paths that bhikkhunīs must keep.
Strict rules, the disrespectful void of cares,
Travel and abodes, they must go in pairs,
Forest hermitages, solo homes not allowed,
A bhikkhunī’s path needed today but how?
Yet, in this learning, wisdom takes flight,
Sayalay’s path, less burdened and light.
Eight or ten precepts, a simpler way,
Respecting the Buddha, in modern day.
Encouraged support, for nuns in their quest,
In rules of the Buddha, they find their rest.
Whether eight or ten, their vows they keep,
In kindness extend, a hand to the meek.
This journey’s end, not merely a chore,
The Dhammapada is in line to store.
A monk’s life of learning, grateful and true,
In Pāḷi’s embrace, wisdom anew.